Sunday, May 12, 2019

Why They Call Old Runners "Masters"

I told a non-running friend that I won the Crest Glory Days.

The response - Does that mean you get a lifetime supply of toothpaste?

For the uninitiated, the Crest Glory Days is a 34 year old foot race in Prince Rupert, sponsored by the Crest Hotel. There is a 5km race, which I won - yay! - and a 10km.

Braeden won the 10km completing the male sweep for Skeena Valley Runners. There were some strong performances from Terrace. Jenna had a really strong race, and little Aiden ran his heart out. No race is complete without the Reids and Adam Brown there.

I didn't even know I was in the 5km race until a couple days earlier. I had arranged to take the bib number of a Terrace runner who could not make the trip due to work. I thought sure I'll take his spot and run a 10km race at threshold. Threshold, with the notoriously tough hill on this course, probably would have seen me finish somewhere in the 43:30 range. I was fine with that, thinking I'd treat it as another training run.

I suspect the Rupert organizers would have placed me in the 10k race happily but I decided not to ask. I wanted to embrace the 5km because it is not a race I usually enter. Outside of the Centennial Spring Classic in Terrace, which only offers the 5km distance, I have never really raced, and absolutely never trained for, a 5km race. Entering the Rupert 5km would give me a growth opportunity of better understanding the shorter distance and the runners who embrace it so feverishly. I believe immersing yourself is the only way to truly understand, and will allow me to grow as a runner and as a race organizer.

I may be old, but I still line up each race thinking I can win. I was sizing up the competition at the start line, noting the usual suspects. But there were two young guys right at the front that I had absolutely no clue who they were. It turns out they were exchange teachers from Quebec, in Rupert for the semester. One was shorter and stocky, but clearly athletic. The other looked like a runner who had designs on winning.

As we headed down the first 400m before the first turn the taller Quebecois gentleman was leading the race. Cue my tactical acumen. I knew that if I was going to beat this guy, I had to get ahead of him early. The guy was at least 20 years younger than me, but they call us older runners "masters" because we have experience - the great equalizer. If I could speed past this guy - knowing that young Braeden was going to pass at any moment too - I could get in the head of these youngsters.

Subconsciously we all fall victim to our limiting beliefs. How many times have I been passed by a runner and just let him stay out in front of me, often in striking range, but stay back because I decided earlier oh he's good. I'm not as good as him,. This is where I belong in this race,. I'm not going to try to outdo my ability. Too many times. I should push. I should strike. On any given day, maybe I am better. And no better time than right now to find out.

Knowing this, I wanted to get into the young teachers' minds immediately so that they would think that about me. And it worked like a charm. It was absolutely vital I did it early, at the same time as Braeden, so that it was a double whammy. That was the moment when I won this race.

And that's the wily experience of the masters runner!

Ultimately I don't think either of these two Quebecois runners - who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively with times over 21 minutes - had the endurance to keep up at this point of the season. I had built enough of a lead by the hill which comprises much of the 4th kilometer. That hill is an absolute chore by the way, but my mountain running helped me extend that lead quite healthily, topping it with Braeden. The Quebecers were nowhere near.

Braeden sped off on the downhill en route to his impressive 10km victory. I knew before I entered the Sunken Gardens that I had the 5km in the bag. Subconsciously that allowed me to let up a bit on that mild incline back to the Crest hotel to finish the race. That's my only blemish on my race, in my opinion. That final km was a 4:10 pace. I should have pushed that below 3:59.

My official time was 20:34 even though my watch said 20:11. It was my 5th career victory - and for a runner with no races this year, I'm somehow 2-0 in Prince Rupert so far this season! I have now won at 5km, 10km, half marathon road, half marathon trail and half marathon relay distances. All of which means not much but shows I think I can help runners at all distances achieve their goals.

And maybe teach a couple wily masters tricks along the way.

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